Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Colombia's Newest Political Party is Tied to a Terrorist Organization

It was announced earlier today that the highest court in Colombia has once again legitimized the Patriotic Union (known as the UP), which is the political arm of the notorious FARC rebel group. In a bizarre twist of events, the ruling came due to thousands of UP candidates and supporters having been targeted - and many subsequently assassinated - by government-sponsored groups. In re-instating the UP and awarding them legal status and eligibility to present candidates in next year's elections, the Colombian courts are looking for a decrease in violence aimed towards them.

The FARC and the Colombian government have one of the most violent histories of the later 20th century. Created in the 1960s, the FARC guerillas terrorized the government for decades, although they only gained significant power with the revelation of cocaine production and the money that came from it. In the 1980s, the Colombian military began their excessive crackdown on the FARC - virtually anybody who was thought to be an FARC sympathizer was executed, and the 1987 candidate from the UP was assassinated a year before the elections. Estimates today put the total death toll of the conflict at over 500,000, with several million others internally and externally displaced from their homes.

The decision today is yet another symbol of the increasing efforts to reach peace between the FARC and the Colombian government. The two sides have been in intense negotiations for months now in Cuba, after the FARC decision last year to renounce kidnappings - their trademark style of waging guerilla warfare against the government. The FARC only has 8,000 members today, down from about twice that much in 2001, another indication that the conflict may be winding down for good.

The road towards peace in Colombia is a great example of two sides putting aside differences and advancing towards a mutually beneficial end. I wrote some time ago of the Taliban being legitimized as a political party in order to reduce their violent attacks, citing numerous other organizations that had done the same and effectively made the transition from warmongering guerillas to successful and cooperative political entities. However, I was wrong: one of the examples I cited was Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah has shown in recent months that perhaps there is no such thing as a complete transition from violence to politics. Their ongoing efforts in Syria are disturbing because while they persecute the Syrian opposition, they actively participate in the politics of Lebanon. So while I remain optimistic about the FARC and Colombian governments reaching some accord, it's at best cautious optimism. After all, how does the old adage go? You can take the terrorist cell out of the violence, but you can't take the violence out of the terrorist cell...

No comments:

Post a Comment